Bible Study Series: Revealing Jesus in Revelation
Revelation Chapter 14: End Times Messages from Heaven
by I Gordon
Have you been to the movies recently? If you do go you'll be given a preview of coming attractions. Ok... 'attractions' is certainly being kind for most of them but we'll let that pass for the moment! So as you sit there with your popcorn and ice-cream, they will show you a preview of scenes from movies that will shortly be shown. Well in Revelation chapter 14 we are given a preview of what is shortly to come. We shall get glimpses of different events that will be shown in more detail further on in this book, But most importantly, we are going to hear from heaven concerning the last days. And as you hopefully know, it is good to hear from heaven. We hear the news on TV, all sorts of commentators and talking heads on the internet... maybe you still enjoy listening to talkback on the radio. But the important question is what does God say? And what message would God give to both believers and unbelievers, knowing what is about to come?
So in the first half of Revelation 14, which we'll focus on today, we'll hear from heaven. We shall see something in heaven and hear four heaven sent messages. Three will come from angels and the last from the Holy Spirit. These combined messages will give us a glimpse of what is important to heaven. So this lesson will focus on:
- A vision of the 144,000 once again - But where are they... Heaven or Earth?
- Three angels flying in the heavens - Will angels be giving warnings and the gospel to unbelievers in the tribulation?
- The message from the Holy Spirit - What would He remind believers of in trying times?
- What is the combined message from heaven?
- Application - what should we take from each of these for our lives today?
1st vision: 144,000 - An earthly or heavenly scene?
Rev 14:1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads.
We have seen and spoken about this group before. They were mentioned in Revelation chapter 7 where we saw that 12,000 of each of the 12 tribes of Israel are set aside by God for His purposes. Can you imagine 144,000 Spirit filled 'Apostle Paul's', working throughout the world for God's purpose of evangelism? They have God's seal and name written on their foreheads and are exempt from the judgements of God so they can do his purpose. John Wesley once said, "Give me a hundred men who love nothing but God and hate nothing but sin, and I will shake the whole world for Christ." Well, how about 144,000 in the hands of God!?!
Now in this chapter they are seen standing on Mount Zion. Zion is a southern-hill of Jerusalem which David originally took from the Jebusites (2 Sam 5:7) and upon which “the city of David” was built (1Ki 8:1; 2Ki 19:21, 2Ki 19:31; 1Ch 11:5). So it's pretty simple where these 144,000 are right?.. Nope! This verse brings about a point of disagreement amongst prophecy scholars. The difficulty lies in whether this is an earthly or heavenly scene. You see as well as the literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem, it is also used in the New Testament for our heavenly reality and destination:
Heb 12:22-23 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (23) to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect,
So to briefly sum up the two positions on where this scene in Revelation 14 is:
- It's an earthly scene - Some believe this is a preview of the start of the Kingdom age and the 144,000 are with the Lord Jesus on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They were kept safe throughout the entire tribulation period and are with their Lord when He returns. Prophecy scholar John Walvoord, who was a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, takes this view (amongst many others).
- It's a heavenly scene - Others believe this shows that the 144,000 have finished their ministry and are now with the Lord Jesus in Heaven. Biblical scholar Charles Ryrie, who was also a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary takes this view (again - amongst others). How did they get to heaven? Well they could have been martyred, as the two-witnesses were, but only after the allotted time of their ministry was finished (Rev 11:7). They could even be another fulfillment of the man-child in Revelation 12 where the child born to the 'woman' Israel is 'caught up' into heaven (as the two witnesses are).
Where do I stand? I believe it is a heavenly scene because of verses 2-3 which follow it and that is how I take it for this study. But it's not something that I'll be taking up arms over! : )
The Message from Heaven: The Spiritual Protection of God
Whichever way we lean, one thing is true and that is that all 144,000 have been kept safe spiritually and have eternal life. So what message from heaven can we take as believers from this? Well, note that it doesn't say 'And I saw 143,995 standing with the Lamb. Unfortunately 5 fell away from the faith, taking the mark of the Beast and were lost.' Nope. The 144,000 that were called and sealed by God are now seen with Jesus. It is the same for believers. Jesus promised that He will lose none of those that the Father gives Him. This will be none. Zero. Zilch. Zippidy-do-da. Why? Because of His power and His grace. If you have been born again, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6, 1 Thes 5:23-24).
Also note that the 144,000 have Jesus' name and the Father's name in their foreheads. This speaks of ownership and stands in direct contrast to those in the world that take the mark and have the Beast's name or his number on their forehead. They belong to the Lord and will complete their calling and ministry for His name.
It's time to sing!
Rev 14:2-3 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
There is a sound from heaven and it is rejoicing and singing! It is the sound of many voices and many harps as the 144,000 sing a new song before the throne and the living creatures and the elders. There are a few reasons why this points to a heavenly scene:
- The passage says this is a sound from heaven. Ok... not exactly great insight there but worth stating the obvious!
- The 144,000 are before the living creatures and the elders which have always been seen around the heavenly throne.
- The 144,000 are 'redeemed from the earth' which again suggests that they are now in heaven.
The good thing is that they are rejoicing. Their unique work on this planet is done. And while the planet they have left wasn't a cause of great rejoicing. the place they now find themselves in, is! A similar scene is given in the following chapter in Revelation where we read:
Rev 15:2-3 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God (3) and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages.
Here we have a choir of 144,000 voices all singing a new song1 which scripture tells us only they can learn.
The song you can only learn from experience
So, as an application, why is that? Why can only the 144,000 learn this new song? Because it is a song related to their service, experience and victory. Earlier in Revelation we read of the elders (representing the Church) around the throne singing a new song of redemption and praise:
Rev 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, (10) And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."
The 144,000 will sing a new song that they have learnt through their service and experience on the earth. They have overcome the dragon, the beast, his image and the false prophet and now sing of their victory in Jesus. This is a good reminder to all of us. It is easy to memorize and sing a song at Church but to really 'learn' the song you need to have experienced it as many of the old hymns were composed through brokenness or tragedy. So for example, you could sing "When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul". You could sing that a hundred times and not truly 'get' it - until you have really learnt something of that peace after the sorrows like sea billows roll. Then you can really sing it. It becomes your song!
The Bible tells us that there is a new song that is learnt after seeing the Lord's work, faithfulness and salvation in your life. And this is especially true after hardship. As the Psalmist sang:
Psa 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. (2) He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (3) He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
And one day all believers will find themselves before the throne as the 144,000 are. On that day we will truly understand and rejoice in what John Newton wrote: 'Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will bring my home.'
Rev 14:4-5 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
More information is given here about the 144,000. We were blameless and pure, wholly dedicated to the Lord Jesus. They remained single, as the Apostle Paul did, because of their unique calling and the importance of the service they would undertake during the Tribulation for the Lord. They followed the Lord wherever He sent them while on earth and now stay close to Him in heaven. We also read that they were offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. That is interesting and obviously reminds us of the feast of firstfruits where the Israelites would bring “a sheaf of the first grain” that they had harvested to the priest (Lev 23:10) and the priest in turn would then wave this sheaf before the Lord as an offering of thanks for the coming harvest. So the 144,000 being called 'firstfruits' suggests that they are the first from among Israel to be saved and presented to the Lord during 'Daniel's 70th week', the last seven year Tribulation period. In this time God will turn again to fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel after the Church has been taken into heaven. But as 'firstfruits' the 144,000 also point to the wider harvest that will come from the Jewish people when they finally turn to the Lord Jesus near the end of the tribulation.
1st message from heaven: The eternal gospel
Rev 14:6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people. 14:7 He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
Here we have the first message from heaven. It is a message for all who live on earth and reminds us of the radical times that will exist in the tribulation! God has always entrusted the preaching of the gospel to mankind. In the Church age we are His ambassadors. And He still uses humans in the coming tribulation (as seen with the 144,000, the 2 witnesses and other believers) but with all the demonic activity going on it is not surprising that angels are also very active in this time. So in this first message from heaven we see that an angel is active in giving the gospel! It is amazing that an angel will be flying and proclaiming the gospel from midair. Talk about a sign to see and a message to hear! That sure beats flying a plane with a trailing banner that no one can read!
Now the angel's message is said to be the eternal gospel2 and it is proclaimed to every nation, tribe and people. Now we should be clear on this - there is only one gospel. But it can have a certain focus in different ages. The tribulation is the day of judgement so it is not surprising that the message of judgement and the need to glorify God is heard here. William MacDonald writes well stating:
"The angel flying in mid-heaven with the everlasting gospel seems to correspond with Mat 24:14 : “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” The subject of the gospel is given in verse 7. Men are commanded to fear God rather than the beast; to give glory to Him rather than to the idolatrous image; and to worship Him rather than a mere man. Of course, there is only one gospel—the good news of salvation through faith in Christ. But there are different emphases in different dispensations. During the Great Tribulation, the gospel will seek to turn men away from worship of the beast and prepare them for Christ's kingdom on earth."
Believers Bible Commentary
We see that the message is to glorify God and fear Him as the Creator of all. Not Satan that dragon; not Antichrist that beast; not evolution or the worship of nature itself, nor multiple 'gods' or even aliens... Fear and worship the God of heaven alone! There are not multiple 'gods', with one of the sea and another of the sky... there is only ever One God and He alone created the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of waters. In other words the one true God created everything! Everyone on earth will be told to fear and worship Him for his judgment has come!
2nd message from heaven: The fall of Babylon!
Rev 14:8 A second angel followed and said, "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries."
The second message from heaven speaks directly to this 'beloved' world system - it will fall. This is a message right from the Old Testament3 where it was originally applied to the Kingdom of Babylon but with prophetic implications of the world's entire system. This message from the second angel is a preview of what is expanded in detail in Revelation 17 and 18 where we shall see that Mystery Babylon combines a religious, political and commercial system all into one... and it will all fall.
And note that it speaks of 'the maddening wine' of Babylon with which she has made drunk the nations. Such is her power and wide ranging influence, and do we not see that today? How many times have you shaken your head at the madness that pervades in this world today? There is such an increasing blindness and deception of the nations as many call evil good and good evil. Such is the maddening wine of Babylon that it keeps the people out of their right mind. But all this shall fall and is declared by this angel as a warning to the people on earth.
A reminder for believers
We need to remember that this system is going down. Daniel reminds us that the day is coming when NOTHING shall remain of the kingdoms of this world but all shall be replaced with Jesus' kingdom at His return:
Dan 2:35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
In light of this, John reminds us:
1Jn 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. (17) And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
3rd message from heaven: An eternal warning
Rev 14:9-11 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, (10) he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. (11) And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
This is another angelic message to the whole world. Again, what crazy days these will be! The eternal consequences of following the beast are so critical that God has to make it clear to all on the earth through the message given by this angel. This is not a watered down message. There are no 'gray areas' or mixed messages here. It is a direct and uncompromising message from heaven stating clearly what the consequences will be if one worships the beast and takes his mark.
"This section makes it crystal clear that no one can assume a neutral position during this intense period under the Beast. Even today we see Christian businessmen who are capitulating to the ethics of the hour. In chapter 13 we saw that the awful alternative for refusing to receive the mark of the Beast was starvation. On the other hand, the person who receives the mark brings down upon his head the wrath of God."
J. Vernon McGee
As the Lord speaks in the Psalms "I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge uprightly... (4) To the arrogant I say, 'Boast no more,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horns. (5) Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak with outstretched neck.'... (8) In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs. (Psa 75:2-8)
And such is the warning given from this third angel. There will be no rest for those that worship the beast. No rest while they are on earth and no rest in eternity. Those that reject the God of Heaven will go directly from the presence of the Lamb at the Great White Throne of Judgment into the lake of fire.
4th message from heaven: Patience, rest and reward
Rev 14:12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Rev 14:13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."
The last message is one for believers. Whereas the previous angelic messages were mostly for unbelievers, being told to fear God and not take the mark, this message is for the saints. It is a message to patiently endure and remain faithful to Jesus despite the cost. And in the context of the tribulation the cost is likely to be the believer's life. Now this is obviously the opposite of our natural human nature. For most people. this life is all they have so they strive, understandably so, with all their might and resources to hold onto this life. But Christianity holds out a greater hope. One that is outside of this life. So John hears a voice from heaven saying those that die for their faith will be blessed. They will be blessed if they die in the Lord. And the Spirit agrees adding that they will rest from their labor.
The Coming Reward
Make no doubt about it... This life is a labor. It is tiring... wearying... it is a battle. But believers will rest from it all. And there is a promise of reward for our deeds follow us into heaven. Every work, every act of service, every kindness, every patient endurance... if it is 'in the Lord' then it shall follow you from this world into the next. It is all remembered by Heaven. As Thomas Guthrie once said:
"Earth for work, heaven for wages.
This life for the battle, another for the crown.
Time for employment, eternity for enjoyment."
So there we have the messages from heaven in Revelation 14. As I went for a bike ride the other day I thought what the combined message from the three angels and the Holy Spirit was. Well, I was also thinking about the cars, curbs and crossings... but if you took them all together, what overall message is heaven giving mankind? Just to state them again briefly, here are all four:
- Angel 1: Glorify and fear God, the creator of heaven, earth and the sea.
- Angel 2: Babylon, who had intoxicated the world with her immorality, has fallen.
- Angel 3: Anyone who worships the beast will drink from the wrath of God, having no rest forever and ever.
- Holy Spirit: Those in the Lord, even if martyred, will rest from their labors and their good deeds will follow them into eternity.
Hopefully it is clear but the message from heaven is this:
"Fear God and give Him the honor due His name as Creator of Heaven and Earth and all it contains. For this world will fall. Its false religions will fall. Its deceitful political system will fall. Its corrupt financial system will fall. And all who follow this system, and its coming leader, will fall with it. They will enter eternity in everlasting punishment, but those that honor and follow the Lord will find rest in heaven and eternity. And all their works and difficulties for the Lord will be remembered and rewarded by Heaven. So make the right eternal decision!"
As I have said before... for the believer this life is the worst we will ever experience. But for the unbeliever, this is the best they will ever experience. The crystal clear messages given in this chapter are to be heed by both believer and unbeliever. If you are not a believer, today is the day of salvation. What is coming is the day of vengeance. Trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation while there is time. And if you are a believer, is there anyone that God is placing on your heart to pray for or speak to? We are seeing more people turn to God in these darkened days. This is something we should always be mindful of and prayerful about. Who is God placing on your heart?